the Senate

BREAKING: Spending Transparency Will Go To The Governor!

The Senate earlier this afternoon passed by a vote of 38-0 SB 936, by agreeing to the House's amendments, thus avoiding a conference committee and sending the spending transparency bill to Governor Tim Kaine (contact here). The bill, patroned by Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), did not receive a single negative vote in two Senate committees, one House sub-committee, two House Committees, one House floor vote and two Senate floor votes, three bill versions and three fiscal impact statements. Within the last few minutes, on the House floor, the House agreed to the Senate substitute of HB 2285, patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Rockbridge). Then, by a vote of 93-3, it rejected the Senate floor amendment which would have added legislative transparency to the budget writing process, but had nothing to do with the posting of actual state spending online. It was rejected because the same basic idea of the amendment was rejected by the House Appropriations Committee earlier this session as a free-standing bill. Lawmakers are hesitant to approve policy on the floor as bill amendments when previously rejected in committee where the pros and cons were aired out.

This action makes the bill conform to SB 936. It goes back to the Senate to accept or reject the House's action, probably tomorrow. If it accepts it, it will go to the governor as an identical bill as SB 936. If not, there will be a committee of conference at which point the amendment will be accepted, rejected or negotiations will fall apart and the bill will die. Either way, SB 936 is a baseline, and there is the slimmest of chances — if the amendment is included — HB 2285 can be made a bit stronger. At the very least, SB 936 will go to the governor!

Why Is The House Transparency Bill In Senate Rules Committee?

As Gomer Pyle would say, "Well, I'lllllllllllllllllllllll be!" HB 2285, the government spending transparency bill passed by the House 99-0 recently, and patroned by Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst), seemed destined for one of the General Assembly's great bipartisan accomplishments this session. After all the substitutes and amending, it even lost its fiscal impact to the overspent budget. Its Senate companion, SB 936, patroned by Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax), was similarly stripped down and passed cost muster in the Senate, and also was unanimously passed on the floor.

But, and there's always a but, the committee of jurisdiction for SB 936 was General Laws and Technology. HB 2285 is bound for Rules. Not only that, but knocked down the chain to the Sub-Committee on Studies (click here to contact). Tomorrow morning. Say what?!

All of a sudden, this most important government reform, that the entire Senate voted on last week, must be studied? Yeah, right. I'm sure you can smell the stink through your monitor. Could it be a coincidence that Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Stafford) touted this as a major House accomplishment at crossover, sending up a red flag to Senate Dems? You know, perhaps it's the, "you-killed-one-of-our-pets, we'll-kill-one-of-yours" routine? Creative killing at that: studying it to death or kicking it around from committee to committee while the GA clock runs out. For its part, the House assigned SB 936 to the appropriate committee, Science and Technology, where the House version crusied 22-0.

There's always hope this will be another love fest tomorrow, and the bill will move on in the correct direction — toward the Senate floor. However, we're preparing for a sub-committee meeting tomorrow morning that will reach a new low in creative excuse making.

Three Proposed Constitutional Protections From Government In Senate Committee Tomorrow Afternoon!

Thursday, we let you know about three important proposed constitutional amendments that passed the House and now are on the way to the Senate. You never know about the pace of the General Assembly, especially right after crossover, so guess what? All three of those CAs incredibly important reforms are on the docket tomorrow, at 4:00 p.m. in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.  Please contact members of the committee and voice your support for these constitutional amendments (see committee here), as soon as possible, up to early afternoon tomorrow. Remember, if these proposed amendments fail, it may be another two years before we can even get the process going again.

All three of these proposed amendments to Virginia's Constitution have something in common: Protection. Protection from eminent domain, the government taking your or a friend's private property, whether commercial or residential; protection from profligate government spending — a taxpayers' bill of rights, so to speak (necessary when Virginia's budget has grown 80 percent during the last 10 years); and protection from mismanagement of our dedicated transportation funds.

Here's a summary of the three:

HJ 725, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Albermarle) would provide protection from the government's power of eminent domain, and protect the 2007 law protecting private property rights from tampering by future General Assemblies. That law was a reaction to the deplorable U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision, which allowed a local government to take private property and give it to developers. Just as the Marriage Amendment was needed to protect Virginia's marriage statutes, the 2007 private property law needs constitutional protection. This session alone has seen two bills (HB 1671 and SB 1094) that would have weakened it (we were able to amend them into acceptable bills). So it is obvious this constitutional protection is needed.  

HJ 789, patroned by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-68, Richmond) would limit spending to the preceding year's total appropriations plus an amount equal to the percentage increase of inflation plus population growth. It makes exceptions to provide tax relief, deposits to the "Rainy Day Fund" and nonrecurring capital projects. With state spending increasing more than 80 percent over the last 10 years, we need this constitutional protection from the big spenders in Richmond. What family budget has grown that much that fast?   

HJ 620, patroned by Delegate Glen Oder (R-94, Newport News), is another protection against greedy government big spenders. It would put all tax revenues designated by law for transportation in a "lock box" so that they cannot be spent on earmarks, pork or for other areas of the budget, only for the big spenders to claim they need more money for transportation. When campaigning for governor, Governor Tim Kaine said he wouldn't raise taxes until the "Transportation Lock Box" was in place. Of course, he rescinded that promise only a few hour after being sworn in.       

So, please contact the committee members as soon as possible and ask them to vote for these constitutional amendments tomorrow in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.